The spring solstice is approaching, the high point of the earthly year. The roots from the seed, the chick from the egg, the graduate from the suckling: neither is an assured outcome. They boldly dare to grow with Solstice energy charging their life forces. Go ahead and succeed.
No mowing May
May is over but I was pleased to read the No Mow May mention in the May 19th MV Agricultural Society newsletter. No Mow May is a pollinator support program that is gaining momentum both here in the US and in Europe. The idea is to give early-emerging insects everything the homeowner can afford for a successful start to the growing season.
Not only does it say “no farms, no food,” but also “no pollinators, no food.”
From Modern Farmer: “Since its launch in 2019, No Mow May has grown in popularity – and especially this year. [Plantlife, a British conservation charity, launched the movement.] It took root in the US a few years ago when the city council in Appleton, Wisconsin suspended its mowing activities in May 2020. Now the efforts are being supported by organizations like Bee City USA, a branch of the non-profit Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. Bee City USA works to help communities protect local pollinators, including more than 3,600 bee species native to America.”
As the USDA points out, “Pollinators foraging in early spring after a long, cold winter are responsible for one in three bites of food.” It’s easy and caring to protect your lawn and its early-blooming weeds—buttercups, erigeron, blue-eyed Grass, prunella, clover and alsikes and the garden escapees like spiderweed and bugle – for the pollinators and thus also for the birds to leave the avenue to an eco-garden.
“That [awareness] is extremely important for our survival. And based on international research, up to 40 percent of the world’s pollinator species could face extinction in the coming years due to habitat loss,” says Laura Rost, coordinator of Bee City USA.
The war on insect life can’t go on, and neither can we. However, it’s not just flowering perennial and annual lawn weeds; Grass blossoms are a source of pollen, as pollen allergy sufferers know only too well!
From the Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary Annual Beekeeping Calendar: “If you think about it [pollinator] Forage, you may not immediately think of grasses, but if left unmowed, grasses can shed copious amounts of pollen. Try to leave grass areas to seed before mowing. Cultivated grasses such as rye and corn can also be experienced in bloom with pollinator activity.
“Clover is another important plant in nature’s household. It provides pollen and nectar and also aids in soil development when used as a cover crop. Purple clover (April-May), white clover (May-July), and red clover (June-September) are three…Red clover is particularly attractive to bumblebees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.”
We photographed the pink erigeron, but were unable to photograph clumps of the lovely blue-eyed wildflower grass (Sisyrinchium spp.) in my unmown lawn; Cloudy kept the nickel-sized flowers shut. According to the Native Plant Trust, New England is home to six species of these smallest irises.
Wikipedia tells us: “Sisyrinchium is a large genus of annual to perennial flowering plants in the iris family. The species native to the New World are known as blue-eyed grasses and, although not true grasses and in cultivars with flower colors other than blue, are monocots. Several species in the eastern United States are threatened or endangered.”
Wild blue-eyed grass in the lawn transplants well (it’s a tiny rhizome) if done carefully, and works well in front of the bed. Select, named varieties are available from garden centers. Look for ‘Lucerne’ and place in rock gardens, organic gardens, drying beds and among other small stature plants.
In the garden
The pollen storm continues. Oaks, autumn olives, weed honeysuckles, grasses and anything that blooms under the Solstice sun: all follow their program to defy adversity and recharge their vitality for growth.
Despite the lack of real rain, there were showers, enough to spur growth and enough to keep moisture-loving, nocturnal earwigs, snails and snails happy.
Rake and remove vegetable garden clippings, which will help these seedling predators. As a deterrent, pollination with limestone, diatomaceous earth and borax is offered; the latter two can be harmful to pollinators. Neem oil sprays are also effective. If possible, enlarge seedlings into larger modules before planting them in the ground.
Roses, peonies, irises of all kinds, ornamental onions (also chives) and oriental poppies are a source of joy, colorful beds and bouquets. Foxgloves are a reliable biennial bloomer and reseed as long as garden beds are not mulched. Mulching interrupts the reseeding cycle of dusty seeds.
Culinary chives are active reseeders and will prove persistent if removed once seedlings germinate, so discard those reserves as flower heads pass by. The greens can also be cut off whole, leaving tender, fresh blades for cooking.
Basil planted early may try to bloom; keep them in good hands by deadheading regularly; Cilantro and dill as well, although you may want to encourage self-seeding of these easy growers as well.
Leafhoppers and caterpillar-like rose sawfly larvae are active and are not controlled by Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) as they are not butterflies. Repeatedly try horticultural and neem oils and insecticidal soap. But also inchworms, which are probably winter moth larvae, are now munching hungrily; Bt controls them. Start a regular Bt program with cabbages: cabbage, mustard, rapini, broccoli, kale and more in the Brassica group fed by cabbage butterflies.
‘Chelsea Chop’ perennials to force bushier growth, delay flowering or minimize the need for staking; also reduces flower size slightly. Themes include phlox, monarda, Montauk daisies, sage, asters and more. Don’t try this on peonies, irises, daylilies, or lilies. Note that perennials need to be divided when flowering is finished.